“How are you feeling?” she asked, concern cutting through her calm demeanor like a rusted tin can.

“Grey, like a summer storm” he replied quietly, looking over her right shoulder, watching other patrons laughing over some joke or funny story. “The blue-gray, where the wind is whipping and the temperature drops like a stone.” He paused to stir his coffee, and gather the scrambling thoughts into something coherent, trying to give them a voice instead of the incoherent, ominous rumblings that echoed in his head.

Taking a breath, he managed to meet her eyes — deep brown, full of worry. “It’s like a thunderstorm in the middle of a bright sunny day. A tornado with no warning. A slip and fall on unseen ice. A punch to the chest by a fist encased in iron. It takes your breath away and instantly numbs with icy cold. A sunrise ablaze in vivid reds and oranges — replaced by a dingy window frame, caked in dust and neglect.”

He looked down at his half-empty coffee cup, biting his lip as his voice trailed off — uncertain if he was making any sense. Unsure if he should give full voice to the thoughts in his head, or speak in allegory, hoping she’d get the message without him having to say it.

Feeling a bit braver, still looking down, he continued quietly, emotions starting to surface in his voice. “I’m black and gray — void of all color. I’m an old film-style picture, where grain and age have washed away details. The picture is still there, but everything is hazed and dull…” another pause, this one longer.

Glancing up again, he spoke, his voice a bit louder, with a gritty edge. “I’m hurt. I’m angry, I’m scared and alone. I’m a failure, I’ll never live up to the standard. In a crowd of people, or sitting across from a close friend, the waves of emptiness just never stop. Sometimes I can ignore it, or quiet it’s voice with busyness — but it’s always there, whispering or screaming.” He pauses, searching for words, and blurted out in barely contained rage “I worked hard to make it work. I made a million mistakes but kept trying, working hard, getting up early, often working 2 jobs, and trying to be positive the WHOLE damned time. And it’s destroyed me. And now she wants to destroy me too — while she plays the FUCKING victim!”

Chest heaving, temper straining against the tight control he scarcely managed to maintain. He closed his eyes and fought valiantly to steady his breathing. InOutInOutInOutInOut In Out In Out In Out In…Out… In… Out… In… Out… In……

A deep sigh.

Eyes closed, he whispered. “I’m grey. And I miss the colors of the sunrise.”

— Andrew Penner

 

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